Mapping what an IHSA district system might look like requires answering some questions that the initial proposal does not address.
In 2023, we had 500 playoff-eligible teams that started the season with the intent to play 11-man football. Two schools, Vienna and Sparta, elected not to move forward with their varsity seasons leaving 498 teams.
This proposal is based on the principle that 512 teams have to be involved to insure eight classes with 64 teams in each classification. The proposal does not declare what happens if the pool does not reach 512 teams. It also does not specify how the shortfall will be dealt with or what would be done if there were more than 512 teams available.
With that in mind, some liberties had to be taken in completing this exercise. Although not confirmed as to whether or not they planned to return to the varsity football pool, Vienna and Sparta were returned. In addition, Rock Island Alleman, which left the varsity ranks for an indeterminate time, confirmed that if the district proposal passed it would be returning to the varsity fray.
Also, West Carroll announced it would be leaving the 11-man ranks and joining the 8-man ranks for 2024. So, after all of those additions and subtractions, 500 teams are in the pool as playoff eligible.
Outside of the playoff-eligible teams, 24 teams in the Chicago Public League were playing 11-man football in 2023. To reach 512, the top three teams in each of the CPL divisions that were not eligible for playoff consideration were moved into the pool of teams to get us to the required 512 teams.
There’s no certainty that this would be the path taken to fill the field, but the proposal does not address what happens in this scenario. This was the most logical course of action.
The 12 teams added with listed enrollment number were Dunbar (449.5), Harlan (295.5), Back of the Yards (1063.5), Marine (580), UCCS-Woodlawn (380), Bogan (738.5), South Shore (561.5), CICS-Longwood (388), Julian (389), Marshall (418.5), Prosser (1161) and Clemente (678.5).
Once the 512 teams were in place, teams were divided by their IHSA enrollment number that was in play for the 2023 season. The proposal does indicate that the intent would be to continue using the IHSA standards for multiplied and non-multiplied teams, success formula-affected teams and teams that had already elected to “play up”.
After that order is established, teams are broken into eight 64-team classes. Here are the enrollment breaks for each classification.
|up to 299
|299.5 to 387.5
|388 to 531.5
|532 to 794
|795 to 1198
|1199 to 1765
|1766 to 2169
|2170 and up
The districts are divided by geography only. In most cases, the classifications were divided either by starting from the northern-most point and working to the south, or the reverse. In every case, efforts were made to make the smallest possible co-centric circles or squares in each district. In several circumstances, an outlier team, such as squads in the metro-St. Louis area in larger classifications, led to some districts having rather wide geographic gaps between teams.
There were also several issues in regards to areas where there were nine natural fits in a geographic area, but there’s no fix in the current proposal to account for such situations. Therefore, the farthest team outside the district grouping in question would be moved to the closest district it could reasonable placed in.
There’s also no modification in the proposal for neighboring districts that might have a much heavier concentration of historically successful teams. One district could very easily have six or seven perennial powers in it, while a neighboring district could have none.
None of those questions will be answered prior to the vote – and perhaps for some time after – if this proposal passes the membership vote.
“If we have fewer than 512 schools we will certainly have to make some adjustments,” IHSA associate director Sam Knox said in a recent interview with Friday Night Drive.
“We wouldn’t force a school to participate if it doesn’t want to. So I can see some districts of seven perhaps if if that’s what it takes to make this whole thing work.”
The IHSA doesn’t plan to submit any kind of projection for what the system might look like, according to Knox, and has not done internal preparations for what the system would be if it does pass. This is largely due to unknown variables such as program participation, possible adjustments to schools’ cooperative enrollments and defections to the 8-man ranks.
“A rough draft isn’t something we’ll do, because it could probably end up being like 75 percent accurate. There’s a lot of questions that we don’t have answers to right now,” Knox said.
“If the voting membership decides that this is what they want, we will come up with a system based on what the proposal outlines. If this passes, and if it does it will be right around Christmas time, and if people want answers immediately, it needs to be understood it is going to take us awhile to let the dust settle and figure out where we are going.”
Listed below are maps and grids of how the projected districts could look. It is very important to note that any change to who is actually in the group of 512 teams other than what is listed above, could change things significantly. Those changes are more likely to occur in smaller classifications than larger ones.
There are certainly different ways the maps could be interpreted. The attempt here was to cluster groups as tightly as possible. There is no publicly known formula for how teams are grouped by the IHSA mapping computer, the principles used here are largely logic and best guesses on previous arrangements in other sports. Teams were not labeled on the map when the districts were put together in attempt to remove any potential biases. But the clustering is quite difficult in the large classifications with so many teams in such a small area to consider for placement.
2022 playoff qualifiers are bolded in the district charts to show where stronger or weaker districts might lie.
|Oak Park-River Forest
|Downers Grove South
|Elk Grove Village
|St. Charles North
|St. Charles East
|Blue Island Eisenhower
|Downers Grove North
|Oak Lawn Community
|Wheaton Warrenville South
|Crystal Lake Central
|Crystal Lake South
|Niles Notre Dame
|East Moline United
|Oak Lawn Richards
|East St. Louis
|Back of the Yards
|Sacred Heart Griffin
|De La Salle
|Illinois Valley Central
|Olney East Richland
|Peoria Notre Dame
|Aurora Central Catholic
|Marian Central Catholic
|Christ the King
|Bloomington Central Catholic
|Quincy Notre Dame
|Gibson City-Melvin Sibley
|Newman Central Catholic
|Camp Point Central
|Deer Creek Mackinaw
|Moweaqua (Central A&M)